On the morning of the LV= Insurance Women's Ashes test, we organised a breakfast event at the Trent Bridge Cricket ground to reflect on the development of the women's game in the UK and celebrate their journey over the past few years.
The panel discussion was hosted by former England captain Isa Guha and featured England great, Katherine Sciver-Brunt, ECB’s Director of Women’s Professional Game, Beth Barrett and LV= General Insurance Sales & Marketing Director, Jonathan Mansley.
Sciver-Brunt, who recently called time on her illustrious 19-year international career, provided valuable insight as she spoke of how the women’s game today is unrecognisable, compared to when she started playing.
“The experiences we had back in the day weren’t as positive as they should be."
What we’re talking about now, with the coaches we bring in, the support network we have, the inclusivity of everything just makes it a more welcoming and greater place to be."
“When we were playing, you had to have three jobs and play for England. I had three different jobs in three different parts of the country,” she said.
Barrett spoke of the England Cricket Board’s efforts towards professionalising the game, their investment at the grassroot level and how they’re changing the perception of the sport so women and girls feel it’s just as accessible to them as it is to the men and boys.
The ECB’s marketing campaign in the build-up to this summer’s LV= Insurance Ashes series reflects this. From fan- first schedules to flagship venues to longer ticket sale runs, Barrett highlighted how they consciously invested in co-positioning the men’s and women’s series. The clincher, of course, was the projection of Heather Knight and Ben Stokes onto Tower Bridge at the start of the summer.
“Visibility gives credibility. We've really got that for both of these series. The Tower Bridge thing was phenomenal. It's those kinds of demonstrable things that say, ‘yeah we're here, we're serious about the women's format of the game.’. So for us as a sponsor, it's fantastic and for the women's game, it is important,” said Mansley.
As the conversation shifted towards the LV= Insurance Women’s Ashes Test, Isa Guha shared her memories of the 2005 series. Amid all the celebrations for the men’s team winning back the Ashes after 17 years, she spoke of how it was forgotten that the Women’s team, too, had won the Ashes after 42 years.
On the open-top bus parade, the bus with the women’s team trailed the men’s and numerous people mistook them as the wives and girlfriends of the men’s team.
We didn't mind at the time because we were just happy to be there. But that's another mindset shift - let's not be grateful. We should be there, the women should absolutely be celebrated!”
With the Women’s Ashes Test played over five days for the first time this year, it’s a pivotal moment for women’s equity in sport, showcasing and elevating female sporting talent as it’s broadcast and watched around the world.